The Mormon Land newsletter is a weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whether heralded in headlines, preached from the pulpit or buzzed about on the back benches. Want this newsletter in your inbox? Subscribe here.
This week’s podcast: Mormonism’s ‘Notre Dame’
As Notre Dame burned in Paris this week, Latter-day Saint thoughts may have turned to the pending renovation of Mormonism’s most iconic structure: the Salt Lake Temple.
Allen Roberts, a Utah architect who specialized in preservation, including work on Latter-day Saint chapels, tabernacles and temples, discussed the faith’s history with its historic buildings on this week’s podcast.
Africa’s fourth temple
Africa got its fourth Latter-day Saint temple with Sunday’s dedication of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s first such edifice.
“It is an amazing blessing to have the temple in [the capital of] Kinshasa,” visiting apostle Dale G. Renlund said before a Saturday youth devotional in a news release. “Members will no longer have to travel far [often to South Africa] to receive the blessings of the temple.”
The 12,000-square-foot structure, more than seven years in the making, is the faith’s 163rd operating temple in the world, including three others in Africa: in Johannesburg, South Africa; Accra, Ghana; and Aba, Nigeria.
Five more are planned on the continent — in Durban, South Africa; Harare, Zimbabwe; Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; and Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, where the church is booming, is home to more than 60,000 Latter-day Saints and nearly 200 congregations.
Across the Atlantic, the newly renovated Memphis Temple opened its doors to the public in advance of a planned May 5 rededication, according to a news release. It was originally dedicated April 23, 2000, about a month before Tennessee’s other temple, in Nashville, on May 21, 2000.
If the name fits ...
The Columbia Journalism Review recently noted the updated guidelines from The Associated Press when writing about the church.
“Use the full name of the church on first references, with ‘the church,’ ‘church members,’ ‘members of the faith’ preferred on second and later reference[s],” the wire service’s online stylebook advises.
The CJR article also pointed out that — despite church President Russell M. Nelson’s plea — the AP still allows use of “Mormon” and “LDS” when “necessary for space or clarity or in quotations or proper names.”
“That means that breaking the ‘Mormon’ habit might be hard,” stated the CJR story, which, by the way, also violated the church’s — and AP’s — longtime rule by not capitalizing “The” in the faith’s full name.
Last week’s newsletter contained a bad hyperlink. The item noting that the church’s net increase of 195,566 members in 2018 was the lowest in 40 years should have tied to a story here.
Blogger Clark Goble also focuses on membership stats in a Times and Seasons post. “The short summary,” he writes, “is that missionary effectiveness is up slightly but overall growth is decreasing, partially driven by birthrate drops.”
‘If I left the church’
The Atlantic recently featured a conversation between two former roommates who became fast friends at the University of Utah and how they slowly stepped away from their shared Latter-day Saint faith.
“From a very young age, I always had questions about some of the tenets of Mormonism,” said Stephanie Hatzenbuehler, a therapist and social worker in Hailey, Idaho. “I was drawn to diverse groups of people who I could talk to about different ideas. … Sometimes, when everyone would disperse to their Sunday school classes, I would walk out the back of the church and hide for an hour.”
Her friend Ariane Le Chevallier, a marketing director in Portland, Ore., said she was “scared that if I left the church, a lot of my friends would not talk to me anymore, and my extended family would be disappointed. But because my immediate family had decided to leave, I knew I was going to be OK if I had my immediate family members behind me.”
Read their story here.
If U.S. states with the deepest British roots pulled a Brexit of their own, what might America’s map look like?
For starters, the Beehive State would be out of the Union, according to The Washington Post.
“If the split were based on ancestry alone, Utah and eastern Idaho would be the first to pull a British exit,” the paper noted. “As a rule, areas of Mormon influence report the strongest ancestral ties to the [United Kingdom], and both Utah and eastern Idaho have large Mormon populations.”
The church’s hotly debated LGBTQ policy is off the books, but it remains on the minds and in the souls of many members.
“The biggest impact of the policy seems undeniably the way it hurt people's hearts,” says Kendall Wilcox, a gay Latter-day Saint and co-founder of Mormons Building Bridges, which aims to connect members and the LGBTQ community.
A recent Tribune story explored the effects of the policy on LGBTQ Latter-day Saints as they struggle to stay true to themselves and their faith.
Ethics of missionary work
Wilfried Decoo, a retired Brigham Young University professor who lives in Belgium, reviews two new missionary memoirs — “The Legend of Hermana Plunge” and “Bruder: The Perplexingly Spiritual Life and Not Entirely Unexpected Death of a Mormon Missionary” — and then explores the ethics of proselytizing in a recent Times and Seasons blog post.
Decoo categorizes his ethics discussion into four sections:
• Ethics toward the convert.
“Most Mormon converts are baptized without realizing what will come next,” he writes. “ … Is it ethical to baptize people who cannot yet properly assess the implications of membership?”
• Ethics toward the family.
“Missionaries trigger tensions, conflicts, and sometimes devastating breaches between converts and other members of their family,” Decoo says. “ … Is it ethical to allow immature and keyed-up young people to upset lives in faraway families — in sometimes hurtful ways that may take years, even decades, to heal, if the wounds ever heal?”
• Ethics toward the community.
“Proselytism by a foreign entity can be perceived as assaulting the very character of a nation or of an ethnic group,” he explains. “Missionaries are then viewed as religious intruders who try to drive a wedge in the social fabric.”
• Ethics and human rights.
“Almost inevitably, proselytism implies criticism of other religions, since one religion is touted as the better one. Such criticism is, in most countries, protected by free speech. However, it can also offend believers to such a degree that it injures their religious feelings and their rights to respect are being violated.”
Read the full blog post here.
Jamaica says thanks
Jamaica’s Red Cross recently honored the church for its efforts in helping the charity’s emergency response and youth development services, Loop Jamaica reported.
The award noted the work of LDS Charities, the faith’s humanitarian arm, at several Red Cross schools in Jamaica.
Fred Parker, president of the church’s Jamaica Kingston Mission, presented a copy of the “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” to Dennis Edwards, president of the Jamaica Red Cross, according to a church news release.
Quote of the week
“What does it profit the missionary to baptize someone who leaves the church within six months? Nothing is accomplished; in fact, damage is done. We have pulled them away from their old moorings and brought them into the church, only to have them drift away.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley in 1998.
Mormon Land is a weekly newsletter written by David Noyce and Peggy Fletcher Stack. Subscribe here.